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Water: Wastewater Technology

History of the CWA Recognition Awards


The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Clean Water Act (CWA) Recognition Awards program began with the National Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Excellence Awards in 1985, to recognize communities that have achieved outstanding O&M programs at publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities. The program, authorized by Section 501(e) of the CWA, presented the first national awards in 1986.

The O&M Awards program was an immediate success and was widely acclaimed as a way for EPA to recognize plant personnel and local officials for their commitment to clean and safe water. In 1988, the program was expanded to include Sludge Awards, now named Exemplary Biosolids Management Excellence Awards. The awards recognize outstanding biosolids operating projects, technology development, research, and public acceptance efforts. In 1989, the Pretreatment Awards program was added to recognize municipal implementation and enforcement of local pretreatment programs. In 1990, a Most Improved Plant (MIP) category was added to the O&M Awards program to highlight successful achievements made under the EPA administered O&M technical assistance program, authorized by Section 104(g)(1) of the CWA. The MIP Award recognizes the efforts of the plant operator, the town, and the operator trainer who helped return the plant to compliance under a technical assistance program designed to help small communities. In 1991, the Combined Sewer Overflow Control Awards and the Storm Water Management Awards were added to recognize creative and cost-effective wastewater management programs and projects.

In 2002, the EPA codified a framework to implement the annual awards recognition program through the addition of a new part 105 to the 40 Code of Federal Regulations. The program had five awards categories with size or facility based sub-categories for each:

  • Outstanding operations and maintenance (O&M) at publicly-owned wastewater treatment facilities
  • Exemplary biosolids management
  • Pretreatment program excellence
  • Stormwater management excellence
  • Combined sewer overflow (CSO) control program excellence

Eligibility requirements for a CWA Recognition Award include:

  • Total compliance with all applicable water quality requirements, and otherwise have a satisfactory record with respect to environmental quality; and
  • Have written documentation as evidence of an outstanding technological achievement or an innovative process, method or device demonstrated in the preceding year, which resulted in environmental benefits, cost savings and/or public acceptance; and
  • Be recommended by the State and/or EPA region.

Since the program's inception, Water Environment Federation (WEF) has co-hosted the EPA's awards ceremony and provided excellent coverage in its publications. The Awards have been presented during the WEF's annual Technical Exposition and Conference (WEFTEC). An inscribed plaque was presented to first and second place national winners. EPA greatly appreciates the overall support WEF provided to make this awards program a success.

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